7 ways to make a difference on MLK Day 

Published on January 9, 2023 in

Today we celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We celebrate the movement he became the voice of, including all the organizers, faith leaders, volunteers and everyday citizens who, inspired by his words, demonstrated the power of people coming together to create a better world. We stand on the shoulders of those who spoke out, marched, and suffered beatings and imprisonment in the name of freedom, justice, and the promise of America. Through their blood, sweat and tears, and the work of all those that have come since, our country has made meaningful progress. But the struggle continues, and, as the past several years have clearly shown, the work remains far from finished.  

At United Way for Southeastern Michigan, we’re committed to combatting discrimination against people of all races, ethnicities and places of origin. Equity is a core part of our mission and lives at the center of the work we do.  

Today and every day, as individuals and a community, let’s commit ourselves to the principles exemplified by Dr. King and all the difference-makers who came before us. Together, let’s Stand United for justice, courage, perseverance, service and hope. 

Tonya Adair

Chief People, Equity and Engagement Officer
United Way for Southeastern Michigan

7 ways to make a difference on MLK Day

At United Way, we believe in making MLK Day a day for learning, service to community and reflection. Here are seven ways you can join us in making this “a day on, not a day off.”

Sign up to volunteer

Whether distributing food, tutoring students or building DIY kits, you can use United Way’s Volunteer Portal to find ways to make an impact in your community.

Find opportunities.

Pick up a book

In 2021, United Way for Southeastern Michigan staff formed a DEI book club committed to reading and discussing books that expand our knowledge and understanding of DEI topics. Books we’ve read include “Arc of Justice” by Kevin Boyle, “I’m Still Here” by Austin Channing Brown and “American Islamophobia” by Khaled Beydoun.

We invite you to pick up one of those books or create a list of your own and start a book club with your friends or coworkers.

Instead of purchasing books online or from big box retailers, consider shopping at a local Black-owned bookstore like Source Booksellers in Detroit.

Watch an equity town hall

United Way’s “What’s the Word Wednesday” town hall series features experts on a wide range of topics that matter to our community, including equity and inclusion.

This MLK Day, watch our town hall honoring Dr. King’s legacy with the Detroit Alphas. And, on Jan. 18, tune in for an illuminating conversation on civil rights and racial justice.

Be sure to sign up for updates to be notified of upcoming town halls on equity issues and other topics.

Join a community event

There are many ways to learn, grow and heal alongside your fellow community members at powerful in-person events this MLK Day. Here are a few options:

Looking for more events for families? Oakland County Moms has curated a list of MLK Day of Service events for 2023, as well as other experiences for youth and families.

Take the Equity Challenge

Our 21-Day Equity Challenge kicks off each May with the goal of creating safe and easily accessible spaces to learn, grow and educate others on equity-related issues. You don’t have to wait to get involved! Catch up on previous years’ content and sign up for updates on the 2023 challenge.

Make a donation

Over the past two years, United Way’s Racial Equity fund has distributed $2 million to BIPOC-led organizations across southeast Michigan. These organizations are developing programs that mitigate the effects of racial inequities and meet the needs of the diverse communities they serve.

In honor of MLK Day, make a donation and help more of these organizations turn their dreams of equitable communities into reality.

Take a closer look

Local stalwarts like the Charles H. Wright Museum and the Henry Ford Museum provide opportunities for immersive civil rights experiences on this MLK Day and beyond. Tour the And Still We Rise exhibition for a comprehensive look at African American resilience or check out stories of social justice and injustice at The Henry Ford.